Dear girls of the world: Let’s celebrate change, travel and women empowerment in India
Dear girls of the world,
‘Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One.’ This is exactly how long it will take for you to press click and book your tickets to confirm the best decision of your life of traveling solo. Don’t worry as I won’t turn this into a cliché – I will not ask you to quit your job, overlook your career, be lost or take up a fancy travel-friendly profession. Honestly, I did none of the above and still ended up traveling on my own terms and finding my true self in between sabbaticals. So I will rather try to make this as REAL as possible…
I am 27 years old, Indian and I went on my first solo trip when I was 25 to never stop since. Also, I won’t deny that the whole Solo Travel concept in easier said ‘and’ done in the West than in India. But the wheels of this fortune are certainly turning – by choice. ‘By choice’ I mean the choices Indian women are making today to travel all by themselves and to adopt a lifestyle which is rather liberated. Now I may be talking about a very small percentage of women here whom you might rule out as privileged, but the point I am trying to make is – that to travel solo in India is no longer unusual, thanks to the choices more and more of such women are making today.
Beyond these choices, let’s talk about reality. Flip the pages of the daily newspaper, and you will only end up believing that traveling solo in India is unsafe. And trust me I come from the same school of thought.
I am no dreamer and no rebel; neither would I ask you to be one. But I am also someone who believes that the best experiences in life only come with faith, a little bit of risk and lots of courage.
Being really reasonable, we do beat India a lot for its unsafe territories, but on the brighter side it is also culturally rich, with places that can’t be safer for a woman. With caution and precaution you can enjoy a mesmerizing solo stint in India, as up into the Himalayas, volunteering in and around the valleys of Leh, Ladhakh and as free-spirited on the beaches of Goa.
Only once you have made your decision, will then come the most difficult task of convincing everyone and anyone who will tell you ‘not’ to travel solo. This will include your employer, so apply for a much needed sabbatical or a holiday but you don’t have to quit. Then it will be your friends – assure them they will know about every single step you take on your trip. Last will be your husband or parents – sit with them to plan your trip and reason with them why visiting that place is totally safe for you. Apart from these three sets of people, take my word on it, no one else matters and never will.
This is the time, when I will make my most crucial argument. Married and travelling solo? Yes. Neither is this unreal, nor is it impossible. I am married and I travel solo, simply because my husband understands that I need these experiences as much as I need the air to breathe and an adventure to keep me sane. But this story is not only about me. I know a lot of married Indian woman who travel solo and balance a lovely travelling life with their hubby too. All you need is the right life partner who chooses to live with you and love you for your solo madness.
Now I am taking the privilege of asserting to the rest of the world, that yes, today I come from a country which is undergoing a slow and steady – dynamic change.
We are building hostels, adopting couch surfing, hosting travelers, developing better and faster online reservation systems for transport, constructing metros and trains with dedicated women compartments, servicing cabs and taxis with perfect fare meters and are decorating even our most budget hotels. Above all we are making our country safe for solo travel, thanks to the welcoming home-stays, thoughtful voluntourism programs and increased travel awareness.
So dear girls of the world, let’s take a minute and celebrate women empowerment in India.
And if you think you did nothing to bring this change, let me tell you – you did a lot by just existing, writing, reading this and inspiring me to travel the world solo, when I thought I couldn’t. Your travelling stories changed mine, because you made me believe that it was possible, only if I tried and did it right. And today I hope that most other Indian girls reading this will aspire to do what you and I did. Fact is that a country or a place is only as safe / unsafe as we make it, for real or in our head. And if we together changed what we choose to be different in the future, even though the change will be slow, it will surely manifest one day.
On a parting note, let me get real one last time. No one ever said that you need to quit what you have in order to travel the world. Instead I believe that a ‘whole’ woman is one who can balance work, family, relationships and travel as a part of her daily lifestyle. Travel is a matter of choice, be it in India or abroad, only with an exception that this choice will never let you down. And a solo travel experience is the time you give to yourself and only yourself, once in a while to drop your blues and prepare yourself for the world again. So trust me on this little secret that I learned at 25 – in the end ‘Travel’ will never be just about a hearty bucket-list, but it was always be about ‘YOU’.
From the heart of a proud Indian wanderer,
who is currently gearing up for a graduate program at Boston University
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